PI Editorial: Mill levy alone won’t solve Roaring Fork School District’s challenges on staff pay, retention
The Roaring Fork School Board will consider next week whether or not to put a mill levy override on the ballot in November.
The ballot measure, if approved by both the school board and then voters, would primarily go toward increasing staff salaries. The override will max out what the school district can source via mill levies — a roughly $6.8 million property tax increase.
Obviously it’s not guaranteed the board will choose to put the mill levy override to voters, but it’s still very likely to make it on the ballot.
If that happens, we’d definitely encourage school board members who support it — as well as school administration where it is appropriate and allowed by statute — to make available information to the voters on what the ballot will accomplish and why it is so important.
Increasing teacher pay within the Roaring Fork School District is without a doubt a reasonable policy goal. Starting wage for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree in the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 is $41,140, which doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to in our area.
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There’s also the added challenge of the rising cost of housing in our community, which means some teachers have less money left over at the end of the month than they did a year ago.
All this makes it completely sensible for the board to seek additional funding through a mill levy override from the voters — but the override alone is unlikely to be enough to completely solve the challenge.
Regardless of what the board decides on the mill levy override, we’d encourage the district administration to continue seeking other ways to boost the quality of life for our teachers and district staff. We’re lucky in that our great outdoors is a powerful magnet for many employees — we lost count years ago the number of people we meet who say our mountains, slopes, trails, rivers and lakes are what keep them here.
However great the outdoors is, it doesn’t make a paycheck go further. So what are some things the district — and other employers for that matter — could do to help retain and attract skilled employees? Employee housing is probably the next best thing to increased wages, but there are other things that can resonate with workers: employer-provided day care, more paid time off, flexible schedules and allowing for remote work are just some things employers around the nation are doing for their workers.
None of these are likely to fix the problem on their own, but the more we can do for our educators and support staff, the more likely we are to keep them right here in the Roaring Fork Valley, helping our children learn and grow.
The Post Independent editorial board members are Publisher Bryce Jacobson, Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Annie Bell and Amy Connerton.
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